Why I Loved UC Dems

Robin Ye is a fourth-year who joined UC Dems at the beginning of his first year. He is currently President Emeritus, and is one of our most dedicated and vocal supporters.

Why I Loved UC Dems
Robin Ye

Back in October 2012, on my very first day of real college (post O-Week glow), I stepped into my first UChicago Democrats meeting. Little did I know that, nestled within the cozy confines of Bartlett Trophy Lounge, I would call this club my home for the next four years. To borrow a phrase from a friend, “I am currently still too close to the center of my lived experience” to be able to truly see all the ways the UC Dems has influenced my thinking, my interests, and my decisions while in college. But it’s never too early to express gratitude for a club that has meant so much to me during my time at UChicago.

I’m glad that through all the ups and downs of college, I’ve stuck with UC Dems every single day of my college career. I found that one of the most difficult transitions to College was not immediately having a network of support to help get me through the stress and anxiety of my new home in Chicago. I was fortunate enough to find one amongst the dedicated political nerds on campus who were also searching for a place to unleash their passion for politics and policy. There’s something to be said about consistency – that while my academic interests have changed, friends have come and go (and my aspirations for who I want to be when I grow up are less certain by the week), I can still look at UC Dems as a happy community where I always felt at home.

At the darkest of times for this club (sometime in January 2014) I helped develop a vision for this club: Dems would be a social club, a place where we were friends and college students first, brought together in time and space not because of party loyalty but because Dems could be a safe, fun place to exchange ideas and riff at the tragic world in which we inhabit. I envisioned a place where young people – from recent high schooler to almost functioning soon-to-be members of society – could learn from each other and appreciate the great collective undertaking that is politics and government. Most of all, I hoped for a place where if you went, you would feel that your time was well spent and that you truly got something from being a UC Dem. I can say that for me, by the criteria we laid out, UC Dems has become a bonafide success.

I’ve learned so much about politics, about policy, about places all around this country, from the fascinating members of this club. There’s no other crew I would want to talk politics with and wail back at unfair millennial disdain. Dems presents a judgment-free space to give presentations about topics you care about, to lay out what you believe, to defend it, and to be convinced otherwise and forced to show enough humility to acknowledge when you’ve been wrong. I learned to throw away my preconceptions about other states, other cities, other places where it maybe wasn’t the easiest thing to say, “I’m a liberal,” or “I’m a Democrat.”

I’ve gained many skills through taking on club leadership that will serve me well in whatever it is I end up doing with my life. I’ve planned and executed an agenda. I’ve helped plan three debates, prepped our liberal debate strategy. I’ve learned to advertise the shit out of an event, and to think through every nuance and detail that my mind can foresee. I’ve had the chance to articulate and translate the work we do in Dems into internship and job opportunities elsewhere.  I’ve had the chance to moderate substantive panels about policy issues, and guide a conversation towards the things that really matter. I’ve learned how to ask tough questions, be critical and sort through the bullshit. I’ve learned to appreciate that politics needs to be more than just about who wins – for every person should have costs that they aren’t willing to pay just for victory, or for power. Politics needs to be about how and on what grounds we achieve electoral victory, about understanding how what we say about the issues effects living, breathing humans.

I’ve learned these things whether I knew it at the time or not. I learned these things not inherently because I participated in UC Dems, but because the UC Dems community provided me the comfort, trust, and reassurance that what I thought mattered and what perspectives I bring to the world were worth something. The Dems community made it okay to be wrong – something that is hard to accept academically, despite whatever lip service about “growth” and “learning from failure” – but not okay to not ask why. A human rights professor of mine would often espouse: “a liberal arts education trains you to be a good citizen, to think critically about your role in society.” A liberal arts education isn’t just learned within the classroom, it’s garnered from the diversity of opinions and experiences from your classmates – After all, there’s a reason we’re all brought here to live in very densely populated dorms and crowded apartments.

The club as I leave it is the strongest it’s been in years, and certainly for as long as I have known it. I want our club to be Big Tent where the Democratic ideal stands for inclusion and extending equal opportunity for all. A club united by friendship and UChicago experience first, and being Democrats second. It would be diverse, safe space to develop thoughts and values. A place to challenge and be challenged.

This club is something definitely worth investing in. To Stephen and Emily, Aaron, Matt, Daniel, Anastasia, Catherine, Anna Belle, Ben C., Victoria – thank you for investing in me. To all those who care about the role of government and the power of political change and policy innovation – consider spending some time with the UC Dems. You won’t be sorry you did.

 We’ll miss you, Robin.

 

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